So often people want to know the story behind the photographer or the creative on a project, but what about the art producer? Art production is such an interesting job to say the least. The people I know in this position come from such rich and diverse backgrounds and rarely do they follow the same path to become one. Understanding this, I thought it would be fun to host a series of interviews with art producers that doesn’t just address how to get their attention, but instead celebrate the art producer for who they are, where they came from and what is important in their life.
Thank you Cindy Hicks for agreeing to be part of this series. Cindy is a Freelance Art Producer who is everyone’s friend. If you have not had a chance to work with her or get to know her, I would be surprised. She is warm and funny and will become your best friend the second you meet her. You can find more about her at her profile on FreelanceArtProducer.com so be sure to check it out and consider her for your next project. Who can’t use a new friend?
Here is what she had to say:
What did you “want to be when you grew up?” Are you surprised where you ended up?
I always wanted to be a photographer, I developed my first roll of film at 11 years old. I ended up in Art Production which I was introduced to in 1997 (I had no idea what one was) But I had worked at a newspaper, corporate, ran a custom dip & dunk / B&W darkroom, studio manager, prop stylist & producer so it all combined into becoming an art producer. Having all that photography background really helped to craft projects, knowing what goes into a shoot, it is not just a camera & someone to click the shutter.
What was your path to becoming an Art Buyer and what was that first moment of inspiration when you knew you would work in a creative position?
I always worked in photography & have a BFA in Communications Art & Design with a minor in Photography. The first actual art production epiphany was when I got to call Eugene Richards, someone I studied in school and at the time he was more art, than advertising, I think I worked with Jayanta Jenkins as the art director, who is brilliant & knew of Eugene, the reality that he picked up the phone when I called; caused a momentary fan girl reaction! He was wonderful to work with & at that point I realized I could work with people who I respected & was inspired by; which in turn affected my personal photography. Plus I love the travel, spending time on location, working sunrise to sunset with great dedicated crews, always different projects, learning about so many different things (I know a ridiculous amount about tires, due to my years working on BF Goodrich)
Growing up, what were your creative interests?
Art, photography always.
Do you have a personal aesthetic that comes through in the photographers whose work you are drawn to?
I am drawn to craft, artists who pride themselves in growing & experimenting. I have met photographers that are all about the gear, not the vision or the craft. Being an artist I relate better with those who live to shoot. Also it is important to me to make sure that the agency & client get what they need, but I also pride myself on making sure the photographer or illustrator are compensated fairly for their work, it is about relationship building. After 20 years in this business, there are so many I count among my dear friends, reps, photographers, art directors and clients.
Are your talents being needed in ways that you didn’t expect?
Yes, now that I freelance, I do a wide range of things; I was a prop buyer for the film ‘Loving’, I have scouted locations, helped photographers get the money they deserve for a job, helped clients navigate the world of cost consultants, usage & production. I am good on my feet & dealing with the challenges that face most every production. I also speak to students at Virginia Commonwealth University, area ASMP groups to help them understand working in this industry.
How have your life experiences influenced your job choice?
I grew up with a very creative mom & a very driven dad, I put myself through college & did a bit of everything. I shot (and still do) a lot of live music and being on the floor of a Punk show, will teach you a few things, wear earplugs, shoot lots & a strong arm in the pit is needed to get your shot; Standing your ground in the pit of a punk show translates well to working in an advertising agency, it takes guts. Also I helped build my own motorcycle & that teaches you patience, mechanics & nerve, (and recovering from a motorcycle accident, breaking 25+ bones over the years) I am a big fan of the Japanese proverb: “Fall seven times, stand up eight.”
all this enhances the talents needed for production, film work….. anything really; because everything has some degree of production.
How do you describe your job to your mother or someone not in our industry?
I am a fixer. I make the ideas of someone in to reality; all the while keeping it from going off the rails creatively, budget wise & keeping the client happy without sacrificing creative, we all want work we are proud of. It is a bit like the film “Wag the Dog” just advertising not politics.
Where do you look for inspiration? Stay inspired?
Everything is inspiration! I once needed a Big Daddy Roth style illustrator & was out one night & saw a friend’s new tattoo, it was the perfect style, so I ended up working with the artist: Bob Gorman from the Band GWAR to do the illustration; not every artist is in a source book. I also like to challenge myself, this month I am doing Creative Sprint a different assignment daily, and posting your interpretation of that assignment daily to social media. It is fun & keeps me creating daily, even when work is slow. I post mine on instagram, twitter & FB. Music is a huge thing in my life, I see as many shows as I can, usually with a camera or iPhone in hand.
If you could change one thing in the creative industry right now, what would that be?
I would like to get back to valuing artists, back to hiring the right person for the job, not based on the cheapest or that the client has “a guy” that can shoot it. I feel since everyone is a photographer now, the real ones get lost. Also some agencies feel that art producers can be replaced by broadcast or digital producers, which at times run fast & loose with usage, rights & permissions.
Favorite way to spend a Sunday?
Hanging out with my daughter Bella, brunch and if we are lucky spending the weekend at the beach with my parents in NC and singing the entire ‘Hamilton’ cast recording on the drive back!
One thing people reading this would find surprising about you?
I am pretty much a straight shooter & open book, I wear my passion on my sleeve so I am not sure if anything would be truly surprising.
If you weren’t an art producer, what would you do?
Maybe teach, I adore working with kids and opening their eyes to the fact creativity is everywhere. I would love to have the luxury to shoot all the time, but it falls in the arena of fine art and lately unless you are a thief like Richard Prince, there is not much of a market. I would also love to shoot live music & portraits, like Danny Clinch…. dream job #972! or a baker, I make a mean pound cake! Or, work with my sister on her organic farm. Even though I don’t sew, costuming is a personal favorite we do Halloween big at my house. Check out these two links: 1) Link One 2) Link Two
This link I find funny (and sad, the reality of today’s state of creative) .
Not really a new discovery, but I really am moved by the photos of D Randall Blythe (he is from Richmond, where I live) He is the lead singer of Lamb of God & wrote a book about his time in a Czech Republic prison. He is a gifted photographer & I find his work has a depth of a man who has experienced things, that would shake the core of most people. His work is insightful and in your face at the same time. Follow his instagram.